Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

The material I post on this blog represents my views and mine alone. The material you post on this blog represents your views and yours alone.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

CROSSROADS COMMENT -- We're Lost and there are no Survivors or Idols

Ali G interviewing a Marine Colonel recently returned from Iraq:

Ali G: Alo mate. So dose roadside bombs, the so called BLTs, is dey relly dangrous?

The Colonel: You mean the WMDs, yes they have killed many American soldiers and Iraqi citizens.

Ali G: Keep it real,.. but tells me agin, how dem sammitches kills sos many peoples.

Ali G: Respect!

The above was posted on Bill Lama’s always interesting blog--read it at:

Lama describes his blog in this way: palosverdesblog --Observations on conservatism, politics, education, cosmolology, astrobiology, evolution and the environment.

It’s well worth a look. Especially, if like me, your politics lean left. Here’s a thoughtful guy on the “left coast” that will give you a better grasp of how deeply entrenched conservatives in the south of the Golden State are thinking. And that “cosmolology, astrobiology” stuff shows Lama is, in Ali G terms, “keeping it real”-- California real that is.

Now back to Ali G.

Ali G? Never heard of him/it. Bill Lama’s excerpts from the show provides a little of the flavor of what passes for . . . what? Humor?

Sensation based programming that debases the audience is so pervasive on the boob tube that it is hard to be outraged by the junk that we have available for viewing. Our "choices" range from fake reality (“Lost,” “Survivor,” etc.) to the over-blown, blow-off amateur hour, “American Idol.” TV is still, in Newton Minnow’s words (JFK’s FCC chair), a “vast wasteland.” Only now, forty or more years later, that arid desert of a handful of channels has expanded from Mojave size to Sahara+Gobi proportions.

But given the commercial props and hype that hold up and send this stuff into those boxes which dominate so many households, why should we be surprised, outraged or saddened? Here’s what we get from the big buck boys on their HBO web site promo:

“The Emmy®-nominated, BAFTA Award-winning Ali G is back! British comedic genius, Sacha Baron Cohen, slips into the skins of his devilish alter egos, Ali G, Borat and Bruno to create loads of hilarious riffs at the expense of American culture in the second season of the international phenomenon called "riotous", by The Dallas Morning News and "deliciously wicked," by the Boston Globe. Available now at the HBO Store. "...I laughed so much I'm sure I hurt something." - New York Post”

Well, commercialism (that is free enterprise, you know, capitalism) sends us once again into the lowest reaches of the common denominator of materialistic culture. And still we turn down or groan mightily about a minuscule amount of taxes to support a sliver of excellence on public television. Go figure. Talk about knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Yo, Ali G, enjoy your stay in America–they love you from Boston to Dallas. You are probably great at what you do. A real talent. But it sounds to me like you're still a part of the picture Neil Postman drew so clearly for us ten years ago in Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. Hip satire or straight news, it's all formatted to please and avoid straining the public's attention with hard questions.


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